May 29, 2013
By Charles Goldberg
DESTIN, Fla. -- Eight-game SEC schedule. Nine-game SEC schedule. The 6-1-1. The 6-2.
Football scheduling has grabbed most of the headlines at the SEC's spring meetings here this week, and Auburn is siding with keeping the eight-game league schedule and a format that will preserve the Auburn-Georgia rivalry. But football isn't the only issue.
Auburn's Jay Jacobs, the chairman of the Southeastern Conference athletic directors, says basketball scheduling is an issue as well.
"The big thing for this league is basketball, particularly men's basketball, and the scheduling of the non-conference games," Jacobs said Wednesday.
What's the big deal? Improved scheduling of non-conference basketball games improves the RPI rankings of individual teams as well as the league's RPI, and that should improve the chances of conference teams making the NCAA Tournament. Last year, only three SEC teams made the 68-team NCAA field.
Part of the presentations for athletic officials this week has focused on improving basketball's changes.
"The overall RPI has slipped the last 10 years dramatically, and that impacts all of us," Jacobs said. "We've got to get better scheduling SEC men's basketball, and the commissioner has taken big steps to do that."
All non-conference schedules will be reviewed by the SEC in an effort to help teams focus on better games. Auburn's non-conference strength of schedule was poor last season. The spring meetings could mean a shift for the league and for the teams.
"What we saw today was facts, and how it impacts the entire league," Jacobs said.
"The commissioner has a vision for this league, and so he's putting something in place to get us where we need to be. I like it a lot."
But football was still in the forefront Wednesday, and commissioner Mike Slive isn't tipping his hand on whether the league will eventually move to a nine-game conference schedule. Slive called the coaches "our support group" in helping find a solution. The majority of the "support group" wants to stay with eight league games, but change may be inevitable.
"Anything can happen when television starts telling you what to do," South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier warned.
There is a greater divide among the coaches on the 6-1-1 schedule that features six games within your division, and a "rivalry" game and a rotating opponent from the other division for every team. The 6-1-1 ensures the Auburn-Georgia rivalry would be played.
"There are a lot of different opinions coming to the table," Jacobs said.
But Jacobs pointed out that the SEC has produced seven consecutive national championships with the current format, and that includes Auburn-Georgia.
"The game-day experience, and certainly the Auburn-Georgia rivalry is a big thing," he said.
Slive said it is unlikely the 2014 conference schedule will be released this week, though it could be released soon. One delay is a change in how the SEC is handling schedule. In the past, teams submitted their non-conference dates and the league scheduled around them. In the new format, the SEC will schedule the conference games and the teams will fill in with non-conference games.
In other developments:
Jacobs again said he's looking for a baseball coach "who will get us back to where we've been before" after dismissing John Pawlowski on Monday.
He said he would monitor the NCAA Tournament for when some of the potential candidates would be available.
"We'll be reaching out to some people. There's certainly been some interest in other people's part in the Auburn job," he said. "We'll go through the process as quickly as we can. The key to it is to find the right guy to lead this team."
He said he would seek advice, but "ultimately, it will be me" who will hire the next coach.
"I'll certainly be talking to some smart people in baseball getting their thoughts," he said.
The same holds true for softball as he seeks a replacement for Tina Deese, who was also dismissed.
"We've had a lot of interest from a lot of different people," he said.
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